Republicans' HEA Bill Prompts Rebukes from Democrats, Educators

By Troumpoucis, Patricia | Black Issues in Higher Education, June 3, 2004 | Go to article overview

Republicans' HEA Bill Prompts Rebukes from Democrats, Educators


Troumpoucis, Patricia, Black Issues in Higher Education


Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have proposed legislation which they say would expand access to higher education for more low- and middle-income students by strengthening Pell Grants, reducing loan costs and fees, and breaking down barriers for non-traditional students--but some critics say it's not sound policy.

Introduced by House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness, the College Access and Opportunity Act would wrap up renewal of the Higher Education Act on the House side, according to Alexa Marrero, press secretary for the House Committee on Education and the Work force.

The bill calls for extra Pell Grant aid for low-income first- and second-year students who have completed a rigorous high-school curriculum through the State Scholars Program, and for making Pell Grants available year-round.

The measure also seeks to simplify the financial aid process for low-income students and would increase the amount a dependent student can earn--letting students earn more money without sacrificing financial aid.

Loan limits for first- and second-year students would be bumped up to "give students greater access to loans at the lowest possible interest rates," according to a statement summarizing the initiative. First-year student limits would increase to $3,500 from $2,625, while second-year limits would rise to $4,500 from $3,500. Total borrowing limits for undergraduates would stay at $23,000, and graduate unsubsidized loans would climb to $12,000 from $10,000.

"The bill will ensure all federal student loans are based on a variable-rate to ensure all students and borrowers can take advantage of low, market-based interest rates," according to the summary.

Students and parents would be informed about excessive tuition hikes by publicly identifying schools that increase tuition and fees at more than twice the rate of inflation during a three-year interval, according to the measure.

Under the College Access and Opportunity Act, all eligible schools would be allowed to compete for federal funding.

"The bill will update technical legal definitions within the Higher Education Act to allow all eligible institutions to compete for available funding as long as they are two-year degree-granting institutions," according to the bill summary. "Proprietary schools competing for and receiving grants as a result of this provision will be required to use the funds solely for student-related services. …

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